Wiikwemkoong students talk to Canadian philanthropist Mark Pathy aboard the International Space Station

Mrs. Natalie Parrington’s grade 7 class at the Wiikwemkoong Pontiac School were treated to the opportunity to speak with Mark Pathy aboard the International Space Station on April 13.

Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory – On a wet cold day in April students in Mrs. Natalie Parrington’s grade 7 class at the Wiikwemkoong Pontiac School had a once-in-a-lifetime chance…speak with a person aboard the International Space Station (ISS)! That person was Canadian Philanthropist – Mark Pathy.  Mr. Pathy is part of the four-member Axiom Mission 1 crew that arrived at the International Space Station on Saturday, April 9th, 2022, aboard the first all-private charter flight to the ISS.

This was all made possible by Pontiac Principal Mrs. Nicole Peltier. She says that despite the hurdles of the COVID-19 pandemic, she is happy that the grade 7 class were able to participate “We submitted a proposal at the beginning of the school year and despite the challenges of the school year and having to pivot to online learning, I am so proud of our students for putting in the time and effort to complete what was needed to make this extraordinary learning opportunity happen in our school. I would also like to thank Ms. Parrington for taking this project on and her commitment to providing engaging learning opportunities to her class.”

No one was more excited about this opportunity than Grade 7 Teacher Mrs. Natalie Parrington. She wore her NASA sweatshirt and treated her class to MARS BARS after they spoke with Mr. Pathy. Mrs. Parrington could not hold back her excitement “This experience has been such a rich learning experience. The students are applying their learning in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math to the meaningful experience of talking with an astronaut in space! This was the very first commercial flight to the International Space Station, so we are witnessing the beginnings of space travel!”

In order to participate students had to design and build structures to examine how factors (such as gravity) affect a structure’s functioning and how these forces affect and support the International Space Station and the launching of structures into space. Students also examined how heat energy plays a critical role in natural processes such as global warming by learning about the causes and effects of heat, investigate their properties, and relate it to geological and meteorological processes.

This amazing opportunity was made possible by a partnership between the Wiikwemkoong Pontiac School and the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station. According to their website “Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) is a cooperative venture of the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT), the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the ISS U.S. National Laboratory and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States, and other international space agencies and international amateur radio organizations around the world. The primary purpose of ARISS is to organize scheduled contacts via amateur radio between crewmembers aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and classrooms or informal education venues. With the help of experienced amateur radio volunteers from amateur radio clubs and coordination from the ARISS team, the ISS crewmembers speak directly with large group audiences in a variety of public forums such as school assemblies, science centers and museums, Scout camporees, jamborees and space camps, where students, teachers, parents, and communities learn about space, space technologies and amateur radio. One of goals of ARISS is to inspire an interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects and in STEM careers among young people.